Feeling very lucky to have the wonderful Katharine Orton on the blog today, sharing a piece she has written about the theme of nature and the natural world in her latest novel, Mountainfell.
The majestic mountain in this magical story is as much a character as misfit-protagonist Erskin. And the journey towards its summit is as much a journey of discovery as it is a quest to save Erskin’s sister from the fearsome cloud dragon.
Having already enjoyed Katharine Orton’s previous novels – Nevertell and Glassheart – I was very much looking forward to delving into Mountainfell (also gorgeously illustrated by Sandra Dieckmann) and was not disappointed. It has the same immersive language, gripping plot, and thoughtful character development that I’ve come to expect of this author.
And while we wait for Katherine to bring out more wonderful books, let’s hear what she has to say about her Mountainfell setting…
Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw
Mountainfell is a dangerous place – or so the stories go. And no one knows that better than me, because I’m the book’s author.
I know that Mountainfell is a dangerous place, because writing this story slayed two computers. First, it killed my laptop. (It went ‘pop’ and smelled a bit smoky, and that was that). Then, it killed our family computer, which was already over 15 years old, so it barely stood a chance. Now it goes, beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep! and does very little else.
But what made me want to write a story all about a perilous, magical wilderness and the strange and mysterious creatures that inhabit it in the first place? Well, ever since I was a kid I’ve loved animals and nature. Cats were my favourite, followed closely by foxes, and then bats. I even loved the creatures that seem to make other people squirm, like beetles and spiders. (I mean, if you don’t like spiders, I understand. But have you ever seen a picture of a teeny tiny, super-cute ‘regal jumping spider’? It might just change your mind…).
Maybe it was partly because I was (and still am) a city girl, but I loved to visit wild spaces like the woods, too. There’s a totally different atmosphere as soon as you step out of big, built-up areas – a definite sense that, here, humans are not the ones in charge. I always liked that. It was also a little bit unnerving, but I liked that too.
I loved Pokemon. I loved The NeverEnding Story and its fabulous dragon, Falcor. I loved watching ants carry breadcrumbs and bits of crisps into their underground cities. I loved following the violin-sounds of grasshoppers to their hiding places among the wildflowers. I still do love all these things, and more. So this is why I wanted to write about nature in Mountainfell.
Then, in school, I started to learn about the damage we humans are doing to the natural world, to the climate, and to animal species around the world. It made me sad then, and now it makes me both sad and angry knowing that the people doing the most damage, as well as those in charge, did nothing about it in the many years since then. What I still find most strange is the idea that we – human beings – are somehow separate from nature, and it’s either ‘it or us’. Because surely, we’re a part of nature. So, saving nature also means saving ourselves. Young people know this all too well. It’s the adults who need telling.
So, perhaps I also wanted to write Mountainfell because on some level, I wanted to acknowledge that we humans can be the most deadly creatures of the lot. But that, at least we have the ability to look at our behaviour, to work together, and to change things for the better. And I wanted to let others know that those of us who care – and I believe that’s most of us – hold the power to make a difference when we stand together and say, “Enough,”.